Abbott to buy Piramal’s health unit for $3.7 bn

Abbott to buy Piramal’s health unit for $3.7 bn

Mumbai: Abbott Laboratories Inc will pay $3.72 billion to acquire Piramal Healthcare’s pharmaceutical solutions business, as global drugmakers look to boost their presence in emerging markets.

Takeover speculation had swirled around Piramal, with media reports highlighting Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer Inc, and GlaxoSmithKline as possible buyers.

Abbott said it will pay $2.12 billion up-front and make annual payments of $400 million for the next four years, beginning in 2011. The US-based company said the deal will make it the largest drugmaker in India.

Global demand for generic drugs from Indian drugmakers such as Ranbaxy Laboratories and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, the top two players by sales, and local rival Cipla, is booming as governments battle rising healthcare costs.

Emerging markets, where cheaper generic medicines form the bedrock of sales, are the new battleground for the world’s top drugmakers as sales stall in Western markets.

“Piramal has got good money for the business," said Sarabjit Kour Nangra, an analyst with Angel Broking in Mumbai. “Now their growth will depend on how they scale up the residual business."

Shares in Piramal, which the market values at roughly $2.6 billion, fell as much as 9% to the day’s low but pared losses later and were down 0.8%. Abbott India shares rose 7.4%.

On Wednesday, Piramal Healthcare denied media reports the founders were selling a stake in the drug maker.

Abbott plans to fund the deal with cash on its balance sheet and said the transaction would not change its earnings outlook for 2010.

Piramal’s pharma solutions business makes and sells cheaper versions of patented drugs and the unit accounts for more than half of its revenue. Piramal’s other interests include manufacturing for third parties and pathology laboratories.

Abbott said the combined sales force would be the largest in the industry in India, and forecast sales in India of more than $2.5 billion by 2020.

Canny Buyer

The deal underscores Abbott’s reputation as a determined but canny buyer of smaller pharmaceutical businesses. Last September it snatched the drugs unit of Belgium’s Solvay for €4.5 billion -- a price that disappointed Solvay investors who had been looking for more.

The Solvay deal gave Abbott a better foothold in emerging markets in eastern Europe and Asia, where the US company has limited sales. The Piramal deal now takes it deep into the key Indian market, which is viewed as a springboard for wider drug distribution in developing economies.

This month, Abbott entered into a licensing agreement to commercialize products of India’s Zydus Cadila in 15 emerging markets, in a bid to accelerate Abbott’s growth in emerging markets.

Industry forecaster IMS Health predicts leading emerging markets will show annual pharmaceuticals sales growth of 14 to 17% through 2014, against just 3 to 6% a year for developed markets.

Abbott was advised by Morgan Stanley.

Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo’s $4.2 billion takeover in 2008 of Ranbaxy, demonstrates the possibilities but also the potential pitfalls that global players face when linking-up with Indian rivals.

The US Food and Drug Administration said in February 2009 Ranbaxy sold misbranded or adulterated drugs in the United States, the company’s largest market, having earlier banned imports of over 30 generic drugs from the firm.